The Boeing 747-8 is likely to be the basis of the next Air Force One presidential transport, US Transportation Command chief Gen. Paul Selva said Thursday. Talking with defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Selva said “we haven’t said we want a specific airplane” but he acknowledged that if the selection criteria demand a US-built airframe, “there’s only one.” Selva said the existing VC-25A aircraft—both 747-200s—“are approaching end of lifetime,” and the Air Force will soon be the only operator of the type—counting up to six others in service, such as the E-4B command post. Being the sole operator is “not an enviable place to be … it makes it exorbitantly expensive to maintain and keep,” he noted. There are ways to keep costs down in buying a new version of the 747, Selva said. Commercially available first-class “lay flat seats” that come with their own internet connectivity can be bought off the shelf to support the needs of staff working aboard the jet for “days, not hours.” The existing jets have unique, “handmade seats.” The 747-8 has adequate “space and power” for the antennas and communications gear needed to “satisfy the requirements of the President in his role of Commander-in-Chief,” Selva said, not to mention the legion of security, staff, and press that usually fly along. (See also A New Air Force One.)
When the Air Force sets a new program baseline for the B-52 re-engining this fall, there will be “some” cost increase, because the project wasn't previously fully funded, and the Air Force has a better handle on actual supplier costs and knowledge from ground testing, program officials said.